The Power & The Glory


The last time I read “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene was in college. Anyone who knows me well would be able to tell you that I have a horrible memory for plotlines– a small bonus of which is that I can put a book down for a few years and, remembering that I liked it the first time, pick it up and rediscover it as something (almost) completely new!

Despite this huge lapse in mental capacity, I am capable of remembering vignettes or certain aspects of a story very vividly. There is one scene from “The Power and the Glory” that remained with me, despite the rest of it completely fading away. Our itinerant “whisky priest” has just stumbled into the crude hospitality of an old man and his family. They give him a little straw mat to lie down on:

‘After five years there is so much to confess.’…

…’Can’t you let me sleep for five minutes?’ He lay down again…

…The old man said softly, ‘It would be a pity if the soldiers came before we had time…such a burden on poor souls, father…’ The priest shouldered himself upright against the wall and said furiously, ‘Very well. Begin. I will hear your confession.’ The rats scuffled in the maize. ‘Go on then,’ he said. ‘Don’t waste time. Hurry. When did you last…?’ The old man knelt beside the fire…

…The priest leant against the wall with his legs droawn up beneath him, and the rats accustomed to the voices moved again in the maize. The old man picked out his sins which difficulty, blowing at the fire. ‘Make a good act of contrition,’ the priest said, ‘and say-say- have you a rosary?- then say the Joyful Mysteries.’ His eyes closed, his lips and tongue stumbled over the absolution, failed to finish… he sprang awake again.

‘Can I bring the women?’ the old man was saying. ‘It is five years…’

‘Oh, let them come. Let them all come,’ the priest cried angrily. ‘I am your servant.’ He put his hand over his eyes and began to weep. 

I read that passage again tonight, with an infant collapsed and snoring happily in my lap. These past few weeks have truly been difficult: my husband is working 14+ hours each day, Emmie has discovered that three is the perfect age to be awful in every way, Sofie has gotten fed up with being home and is SO ready to leave me for kindergarten, house-hunting has thrown me for a thousand loops and Isaac has not only battled infections and pre-teething, but is now in the the throes of his four-month cognitive leap (fussy, not sleeping well, needing to be held and entertained ALL THE TIME). I am no itinerant whisky priest, but I am a stay-at-home mom with a grapefruit shandy tonight. And I think we understand each other perfectly.  


Anything But Ordinary


I actually managed to pick up my Liturgy of the Hours book today and do morning prayer. I’ve been horrible about getting in my much-needed prayer time during these last few weeks… and the excuse isn’t the newborn. Finding time to pray is actually quite easy when you’re tied down to a chair for 15-20 minutes a dozen times per day, but making the time is the difficult part. I find it’s much easier to devote 15 minutes to a Rosary when they are a stolen 15 minutes in-between lunch and work and dishes. When I have a lot of time, it’s harder to convince myself that I should use this particular 15 minutes for my prayer.

I digress.

What I wanted to jot down is the feeling I had when I opened up my prayer book to Week I of Ordinary Time. Ordinary. No special antiphons or hymns. Just back to the numbered, green weeks that form the backbone of the liturgical year. And I have to admit that after such a chaotic, intense Advent and the hustle and bustle of having a baby born on Christmas Day, then his baptism celebrated on the Baptism of the Lord… it was kind of nice to sit down with my cup of coffee this Friday morning and feel the comfortable slide back into “ordinary” time in this new chapter of my “ordinary” life.



The past few days have been tough. There are things to do, lots of pressure towards the end of the semester and oh yeah– kids.

I was in the shower the other day while hubby took care of getting the kids breakfast and since that’s the only time I really have to myself, that’s usually when I find a few minutes to pray.

“Jesus,” I asked, “…why?”

“Why did you bother to come and be born as a baby, grow up, spend years teaching, die that horrible death and then rise again? I’m doing what I can here with my life and yeah, I could be doing better, but why did you do that for us? My days are spent cleaning toilets and changing diapers and making lunch that no one eats. Why did you expend all that Greatness just to come for things that are so… mundane?”

I sat with that thought for about thirty seconds (that’s a long time these days) and then suddenly I got a response.

 That’s exactly why I came– so that the mundane (things of this world) could attain to heaven. 

Ask a silly question and you get a silly answer, I guess. 
But it put a few things into perspective when I greatly needed it.  This world isn’t our eternal home, no matter what the tabloids or the politicians or any philosophers say. This life can’t fulfill our desires and our worldly desires can’t give meaning to this life. It’s mundane. And it always will be. But thanks to Christ it is infused with the Already-But-Not-Yet of the Kingdom and that gives everything (even dishes and diapers and half-eaten lunches) meaning and hope.  That’s why He came, because God doesn’t want us stuck in the mundane forever– but He does want us to live in it and be leaven for it now.